press release

About 70 works from the collection of the Stedelijk Museum that share with one another an unruly, even anarchistic character, running counter to the existing rules and conventions in art and society.

Some works ridicule the accepted criteria about art and art history with paradoxical and banal objects; others are a reaction to social or political issues. The impetus for this presentation is the Museum’s recent purchase of works by Marc Bijl, Thomas Hirschhorn and Erik van Lieshout. The mood of callousness and confusion that arose after the attack on the World Trade Center, the war in Iraq and the assassination of Pim Fortuyn is tangible in their work.

These acquisitions are placed in the context of works which have been produced over the previous four decades, creating an amalgam of positions and attitudes, worked out in various disciplines.

It has been a familiar phenomenon, chiefly since Dadaism, for artists to opt for a form of destruction or chaos in order to arrive at renewal and a redefinition of the concept of the ‘modern’. Aesthetic codes and subjects that seem to be just barely acceptable are jumbled together, in order to shock the public and shake them awake. This can be done by attacking the prevailing sense of good taste with ironic or shocking images or materials, but it can also involve holding up a mirror to the viewer, with caricatures or extreme exaggerations of reality.

With his Neighbours (2005), in an apocalyptic image Thomas Hirschhorn shows us the destructive power of violence. He refers to the impossibility of effectively visualising reality any more with the aesthetic of Picasso and Matisse. Placing Neighbours in proximity to objects by Jean Tinguely and Daniel Spoerri makes it clear that the present generation of artists are not unique in their commentary on everyday realities. In the early 1960s these artists too provided a critique of a purblind world that seemed to be oriented solely to technology and commerce.

They organised actions and constructed assemblages from existing objects, thereby altering the identity of the constituent parts. Their work, and that of other Nouveau Réalists such as Arman, Mimmo Rotella, and Martial Raysse, was primarily a reaction to the personally charged painting of the abstract expressionists. American Pop Art was similarly a response to Abstract Expressionism. Although they did expose the banality and violence that ran through mass media, the critique of consumer society the Pop Art artists delivered in their work was less clear than that of the Nouveau Réalists.

With their actions, happenings and polemic articles the Fluxus artists (including Ben, Wolf Vostell and Wim T. Schippers) mounted a critique on the commercial character of the art object. Some even argued for completely dispensing with materials and means, and considered a random snapshot from the life of an artist that captured the moment of performance as art. Like the currents mentioned above, Fluxus wanted to broaden the existing boundaries in art.

In the 1980s Georg Herold and Martin Kippenberger showed their rejection of every form of art fetishism and glorification, producing ironic and provocative commentaries incorporated in installations, sculptures, paintings, drawings and posters. The recent work by Marc Bijl and Erik van Lieshout is shown here in relation to work by David Bate and Charlotte Schleiffert. The deformities and taboos of social situations such as drug dealing, sex, violence, hypocrisy surrounding norms and values, and intolerance were held up for consideration in realistic images, or in metaphors.

Breaking the rules

Künstler: Marc Bijl, Thomas Hirschhorn, Erik van Lieshout, Wolf Vostell, Wim T. Schippers, Georg Herold, Martin Kippenberger, David Bate, Charlotte Schleiffert...